Rising Fountains Development Prog Weblog

October 27, 2007

Sickness, Killing Chickens and Independence!!!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 9:15 am

October 20th-26th

 

My first weekend in Lundazi didn’t get off to a good start.  On Friday Ragini and Melina weren’t feeling well and got worse as the day progressed.  Late on Friday night Ketan started to show the same symptoms.  On Saturday all three decided to go to the clinic to get checked out for malaria – luckily they didn’t have it and drinking water from the bore hole in Lumimbia was blamed. Thankfully, I had not drunk a lot of this water and escaped the sickness.  Nevertheless, I learnt a big lesson, at their expense, for when I return to the Valley!!  

 

Due to the illness, Ketan and Ragini’s leaving party was postponed from Saturday evening until Sunday.  However, Rose and Melina (even though she wasn’t feeling well) began to prepare the chicken for the party on Saturday.  At last, I had the opportunity to see for myself what Ragini and Ketan had been telling me about every time we ate chicken!!  It’s a lot cheaper here for families to buy the chicken live and kill it of food.  Of course, I am used to buying the chicken already prepared for cooking in the supermarket, so you can imagine my shock when I walked into the kitchen and saw two chickens walking around the floor!!  In the afternoon the chickens met their fate in our backyard as they were killed, de-feathered, cleaned out and cut into pieces ready to be cooked the next day.

 

The following day both Ragini and Ketan felt much better and we had a typical lazy Sunday morning before Rose and Melina came to start to prepare for the arrival of guests.  All of the districts water and electricity comes from Malawi and every other Sunday both are cut off for maintenance work.  It was just our luck that it worked out that on this Sunday both would be cut off.  Nevertheless, it did not damped spirits and with the help of a few candles and a generator we managed to get some light and Zambian music to get the party going.  Mathias and heads of departments in the area made speeches which welcomed me to RFDP and Lundazi and, of course, said fond farewells to Ragini and Ketan.  It was strange that I had only met the couple a week ago but I felt I had known them much longer and I owe them a lot for helping me settle into life here.

 

After deciding to delay their departure by a day in order for them to recover fully from their illness, Ragini and Ketan spend most of Monday packing and saying good-byes whilst I went to the office to continue with work.  After work both of them took me to a house where you can get, in Ragini’s words, “the best ice-cream n Lundazi”.  It was the home of an Indian family and they warmly welcomed us in.  They asked us to spend some time with them and brought us Indian tea and sweets.  For me it was great to experience a tiny bit of India in the middle of Lundazi, especially as Ragini and Ketan had told me so much about Indian culture.  Afterwards, we ate the ice-cream and I have to say it was pretty good!!!

 

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning Ragini and Ketan finally left Lundazi as they continue on travels through Zambia on their way to South Africa.  At work Mathias and I drew up a work plan for me and I suddenly realised just how much work I have to do.  The majority of my time will be taken up by find sources of funding for RFDP projects including for water and sanitation development based on Ketan’s Needs Assessment.  I’ll also be fundraising for RFDP to buy its own vehicle and for money to hold events on International Aids Day on December 1st.  Another dimension of my role will be visiting local schools to continue ongoing youth education and recreational programs concerning HIV/AIDS awareness, water and sanitation, environmental protection and Girl Child education.  In the next few weeks I should also have another field trip to the Valley to meet community volunteers and visit more RFDP projects.  So, I’ve loads to do and only two weeks left of my first month to get things started – the next few weeks are going to be very busy!!

 

Tuesday also brought the first rain – but it isn’t the showers of rain we mostly get in Ireland!  It was a complete down pour and then everyone said that the rains don’t get heavy until December or January!! 

 

Wednesday was October 24th – Zambian Independence Day and it was marked by activities at the main football pitch in Lundazi.  After a long speech from the District Commissioner, there was some traditional singing and dancing.  There was a strong message running through the celebrations which was that although Zambia received independence from Britain forty three years ago, poverty, HIV/AIDS and economic constraints keep its people from bring completely free.  More rain cut the festivities short and I went to Melina’s home for lunch.  I had not eaten nshima since I was in the Valley and didn’t realise how much I had got used to it!!  We had a lovely meal and as usual received a warm Zambian welcome from Melina’s family.

 

Thursday and Friday was spent in the office starting work on researching different funding sources, whilst at night I was getting used to a quiet house following the departure of Ragini and Ketan.  It won’t be quite for long though as Melina will move in at the weekend!

 

Another busy week, with big changes and learning loads… and its only week two!!! J

 

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October 23, 2007

Blog 6 – Ragini and Ketan

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 1:52 pm

Blog 6

 

Week 6 started very well! The vehicle had arrived to take us to the valley and all was set, except for an urgent proposal which had to be submitted on the Wednesday so that funding for the next quarter could be obtained. We worked on trying to get as much of it done as possible so that we could depart for the valley on Tuesday.  It worked!  We were picked up around 18hours and were gone for dust, literally – we were caked in dust on the trip there! There had been some changes due to some staff commitments, so a new facilitator, Paul, and Leonard (the RFDP Programmes Manager who has been off work to nurse a broken ankle) joined the trip along with Melina, Jeannie and us.

 

The trip took 3 hours in total and there were no breakdowns at all, so we arrived at approximately 2130 hours.  It was really nice to get to know everyone a little bit better. The workshop itself was a two day affair, but could only be started once Chief Chitungulu was informed of our arrival and gave us permission to start. Although he was not there, his uncle and advisor allowed the workshop to commence.  

 

The workshop went very well!  Topics included environmental awareness, HIV/AIDS, STI’s, culture and traditions, stigma and discrimination and water and sanitation.  The participants were very open to the information that we were all putting across, particularly as we were introducing them to new ideas of alternative livelihoods (including bee-keeping, sustainable farming and jewellery making), and a new HIV/AIDS approach, “SAVE” (Safer practices, Available medications, Voluntary counselling and testing and Empowerment).  It was a great experience for us both, not only to develop our facilitation skills, but also to see that the research we had been doing over the last few weeks was finally coming into fruition.  It was also fulfilling to see that despite language difficulties and the need for interpretation, that all of the participants seemed to appreciate and learn a lot from what we were doing.  By the end of the 2 days the participants were putting all that they had learnt together and started to answer each other’s questions!  Through dispelling some misconceptions about HIV/AIDS you could really see how knowledge can create behaviour change. 

 

We got back on Thursday night by 22:00 without any problems!  The next day was to be our last day in the office so we were both busy trying to finish all our work.  In the afternoon we arranged to visit Kanele School for one last time; it was lots of fun!  Many of the children performed dramas, dances and poems.  It was evident how talented the children were and how eager they were to perform in front of us as their performances lasted for an hour!  Then we asked for some volunteers to give topics to act out so that the rest of the school could try to guess what the message was.  All the children involved did a really well to come up with plays at such short notice, but they did, and the rest of the school understood the importance of the messages about staying in school, keeping Lundazi clean and the transmission of HIV very well. 

 

That evening was our last ever meeting at RFDP (so sad!). Unfortunately by this point I was starting to feel really ill and shivery (not at all normal in the heat of Lundazi) so Jeannie took me home to relax.  Ketan stayed on for the final meeting which was primarily to thank us for the work we had put in and to ensure that the partnership continues, even from the UK.  So when Ketan came back home he was beaming with many positive things to tell me!  Meanwhile, at home Jeannie had been completely looking after me as the nausea kept coming and going.  That evening, following bouts of vomiting, I slept for most of the night, until Ketan then woke up in the middle of the night with the same symptoms.  So we spent most of the night taking it in turns to get up to go to the bathroom every hour – not very pleasant!

 

Our Saturday was quite a right-off as we slept through most of it! We were supposed to have our farewell party that evening but as everyone was so concerned about us and saw how weak we were, it was decided to postpone it until Sunday.  We felt completely looked after as so many people were running around doing things for us all day, including Michael, our neighbour, Mathias, Jeannie, Melina and Rose.  Looking back now we didn’t even miss or feel the need to be at home, as you normally would if your ill abroad, we had so many people who cared and looked after us right there, it was really nice!

 

On Sunday morning we felt much better, still weak but at least we were able to start eating! Even if it was just plain bread for breakfast and just rice for lunch! We lounged around as electricity and water was cut off again, but also had phone calls from Mathias, Rose and Michael in the morning to check on us!  

 

By about 14hours, people had started to arrive to set up the party! There were chickens being cooked (they were killed the day before – I slept through it this time), the floors being swept and cleaned and loads of chairs being brought over. By 17hours the guests started to arrive and the DJ was all set up except for no electricity.  The guests included the Minister of Education, the District Officer for Ministry of Community Development, RFDP Staff, our friends and neighbours! There was a good turn out, and by the time the DJ sorted out a generator, everything was set and party was underway.  There were many speeches by the officials present, and also by Mathias who said some very kind words.  We were very touched by what everybody said, and if we take only one thing away, it’s the importance of what our presence in Lundazi was to RFDP, but also that it would be a big shame that when we leave that all ties are cut. So we will both make a concerted effort to keep in touch and keep the ties ongoing.  After the speeches, we were presented with some gifts which we were completely not expecting, and some traditional Zambian music and dancing.  We also managed to get the Foo Fighters on and introduced skanking and moshing!!  In all, it was a very enjoyable night and we were extremely touched by all the kind words spoken by everyone and will always keep them with us.

 

It will be a big shame to leave Lundazi, we don’t quite know how we could possibly cope with the speed of London lifestyle again, but maybe we could take that part of Zambia home with us, along with the kindness, welcoming nature, and friendliness of the people.

Muli uli everyone!!!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 1:48 pm

Muli uli everyone!!!

I’m Jeannie McCann, the new volunteer at RDFP.  I come from Northern Ireland and have just graduated from university with a BA Hons degree in History and Politics.  For the next six months I will be primarily working as a fundraiser for RDFP.  I hope to be keeping a regular blog here so that you can all be kept up to date with what I am up to.

________________________________________________________________________

Eighteen hours after I left the cool autumn air of Belfast I arrived in Lusaka airport at 06:30 on October 11th.  Despite it being early morning, once I got off the plane I immediately felt the warm air and realised that the climate here would make up for the bad summer at home!!

I was warmly greeted at the airport by Pastor Siyani Zimba, Chairperson of RDFP, and Mr. Mathias Zimba, Director of RDFP.  After being in email contact with Mathias for so long is was good to finally put a friendly face to the name! 

For the next two days we stayed with Pastor Siyani and his family in their home.  Our stay was longer than anticipated as my immigration status had to be confirmed and I had to register with the Irish Embassy.  Whilst there I had the opportunity to visit The Lusaka City Market.  Basically, you can buy almost anything you need here and it was amazing to see all the different stalls selling vegetables, meals, hardware and clothes.  I bought a chitenga, which is a long cloth which Zambian women were around their waist and it extends to their ankles.  It was in the Zambian colours celebrating the country’s independence which will officially be marked on October 24th.    I can safely that I was the only ‘mazungu’ (white person) there and as I walked I could hear “mazungu!”, “mazungu!” and “White girl you are very white!”  It was one of the first times that I came into contact with the warm, friendly, relaxed Zambian psyche, with everyone welcoming the pasty white Irish girl!!  Over the next week I was to re-encounter this warmth over and over again.

At the very early time of 04:00 on October 13th, after saying good-bye to Siyani and his family and thanking them for welcoming me so warmly into their home, Mathias and I set off on the eleven hour bus journey to Lundazi in Eastern Province, along the border with Malawi.  Although I was delighted to have had the opportunity to visit Lusaka I was happy to be on the final stage of my journey to the place where home would be for the next six months.  Despite it being very long, the journey went relatively smoothly with the exception of a few bags falling from the rack above the seats and the glass from the door blowing out!! 

Once outside Lusaka we met few vehicles and most of the land was covered with bush.  Even though I some how managed to doze most of the way, (!!!) the journey was a real opportunity for me to appreciate the beauty of the Zambian country side.  From the valley outside Lusaka to the hills and rivers as we moved north-east the landscape was a truly breathtaking!! 

We eventually arrived in Lundazi at around 16hours on Saturday afternoon.  We were greeted off the bus by RFDP secretary, Melina, and the two volunteers I have come to replace, Ragini and Ketan Patel from the UK.  Just as it was in the airport a few days earlier with Mathias, it was great to be able to put friendly faces to the names after reading their blog each week since they had arrived in Lundazi. 

From the bus station we took a short taxi ride to the volunteer house – I had finally arrived!!  The house has completely exceeded my expectations – it just on the outskirts of Lundazi and has three spacious bedrooms, a kitchen, large living room and dining area.  On the door step here is beautiful scenery of the surrounding countryside and amazing sun sets!!  Waiting for us at the house was Rose, the housemaid (still getting used to that!), Grandson, the night watch man, and Mrs. Zimba, Mathias’ wife.  Again, I encountered the friendly, welcoming Zambian spirit as we ate a traditional meal which Rose and Mrs. Zimba had spent most of the day preparing.  It included nshima, which is made from grinded maze and is the main substance in the Zambian diet.  This is served hot and is rolled in your hand until smooth and then ate.  Luckily, I had already tried some in Lusaka and managed to eat it without having to have it broken into smaller pieces like a baby to stop me burning my fingers!! haha

After having an early night we rose on following morning an attended the Sunday service at the Church which Matthias attends.  This was an interesting experience not only for me, but also for Ragini and Ketan, and all three of us greatly enjoyed listening to the soulful voices singing Gospel music.  After Church we had another lovely meal, this time at Mathias’ home and spend most of the remainder of the day finding my bearings around Lundazi.

Monday marked the beginning my first working week and Ragini and Ketan’s last.  In the morning we walked the fifteen minute walk to the RFDP office where I met some more of the organisation’s staff.  Before I left home the Mayor of Limavady Borough Council presented me with a plaque to give to RFDP.  I presented it at the Monday morning meeting and all the staff members were delighted with it.  The plague is now hanging in the office as a symbol to everyone at RFDP that they have support in Ireland for the work they are doing and as a reminder of home for me.

I wasn’t long in office before I realised I had a lot to learn – not that I ever doubted that I won’t.  The best way to learn is through practical experience and on Tuesday we set out to visit one of the villages in RFDP’s catchment area.  Most of the area is in the valley which lies west of Lundazi town.  After a three hour journey we arrived at the village of Lumimba where RFDP was to host a two day workshop on issues linked to HIV/Aids, deforestation and water and sanitation.  On our arrival we received another warm Zambian welcome.  As I suspected I was the ‘Only Mazungu in the Village’ (Ragini and Ketan are of Asia origin) and attracted much attention which I was, and continue to be, flattered by.  I was too much for some of the younger children though and whenever I approached them they often started to scream and cry!!

I count myself lucky that I was able to have this experience at such an early stage in my stay.  I found the information provided in the workshop, and the stories the participants brought, extremely interesting.  Moreover, witnessing people using the bore-hole for water and realising only a few houses had electricity really brought home the message that was being communicated in the workshop – which I believe will be unavailable to me as I begin to work at RDFP. 

Unfortunately when we were travelling to and from the valley it was at night and we didn’t see wildlife in the bush as we had anticipated – in fact the greatest excitement over animals was when we returned home late on Thursday night and found that Grandson (night watch man) had killed a snake in our house!!!!

Most of Friday was spend continuing to familiarise myself with Lundazi and the work of RFDP as Ragini and Ketan finished off their final pieces of work.  In the afternoon the three of us went to visit Kanele Middle Basic School which has ongoing programs with RFDP.  Again we were warmly welcomed by everyone, with the pupils putting on singing and dancing performances both to welcome me and say good-bye to Ragini and Ketan.  After they had finished we got them to act out a few short scenes that included important messages about HIV/Aids, the environment and the importance of girl child education.  I was extremely impressed at the willingness of the children to get involved and at their knowledge of what we were talking about.  Just as in the valley I was no longer just completing something that was abstract. I was meeting the people who are greatly affected by the problems I have been reading about.

I’ve only been in Zambia for ten short days but they have been an eventual ten days which have set my time here off to a great start!!!  Although there have been some language difficulties, for me it has all contributed to the uniqueness of Zambia and my experience here.  No doubt there will be much more to come!!!         

October 16, 2007

Week 5 blog!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 11:48 am

 

Hello!! Week 5 was again waiting and preparing ourselves for the imminent departure to the valley. All was set by Tuesday, except the vehicle and broken down in the valley on the way to Lundazi, so it didn’t actually arrive until Wednesday morning and then needed to be fixed for the next three days! The carburettor, the entire exhaust pipe and some other “issues” were being worked on! So everyday we were told we might leave, and by Friday morning we decided to wait until the following Monday as the director, Mathias, would have returned with the new volunteer Jeannie, from Lusaka.  

 

So all this waiting inspired Ragini to type up some letters to car manufacturers to ask for funding, donating, sponsorship of a vehicle for RFDP whilst I wrote up my notes for the water and sanitation needs assessment for the valley area.

 

We were also fortunate to have made good friends with some neighbours, Michael and Annie who invited s over for breakfast and then again for a traditional lunch of Nsima, with rape and groundnuts which was really nice, but really filling. We also tried a drink which was made from maize and water – this was not as nice, as it tasted like sour milk!!

 

We also took the opportunity to research our next travel plans as next week would be our last in Lundazi, which is a real shame.

 

Friday became a real panic for the staff as a report deadline was to be met, so we were all in the office until at least 20 hours to finish it off! Some of the staff were still working on Saturday!

 

On Saturday, Mathias’ wife came to our house to show us how to prepare Nsima with rape and groundnuts, chicken and beans.  The chicken was brought over whole, and alive!! So as well as cutting rape, pounding nuts, and stirring maize to make Nsima, we (or Rose our maid I should say) killed a chicken, de-feathered it using boiling water, and cut it to pieces!! The only thing that didn’t go into the pot was its eyes, intestines, toe nails, and stomach contents!!

 

We left everything to cook to go to the bus station to meet Jeannie and Mathias. They and some of the staff at RFDP came back to the house for what was a really nice dinner that took about 12 hours to prepare! (Remember we only have one small charcoal burner!)

 

Sunday was very different for us, as went to church with Mathias and his wife, the gospel music was really cool, and then over to his house for lunch!

Ketan and Ragini – Blog 4

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 10:59 am

Hello! This is our blog for our fourth week at RFDP.  This week is was to be our holiday week so that we could go and explore some of the highlights of Zambia, such as South Luangwa National Park – which is right on our doorstep, relatively speaking! However, as the valley trip was still up in the air due to difficulties of funding, we were unable to make any concrete plans, so worked through the week.  Funding is a really big issue as it affects everything that is done here at RFDP and the guys are running around trying to sort it all out. There are many people in the valley (project area) relying on attending the workshop learn more about the issues relating to them, including HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation and environmental protection.  So when funding is an issue, it not only affects the project and communities, but the staff here trying to ensure everything goes as smoothly as it can.  One of the major issues is the cost of hiring a vehicle whenever we need to go to the valley.  If RFDP had owned a vehicle, we could potentially visit the project area every week. 

In a way, it might have been beneficial to us that the workshop was been delayed, as we were able to fully research the topics that we were to discuss, and therefore put together a better workshop for the communities.  Now we just need to be able to present it!

We also visited Kanele Basic School again, which we went to in Week 1, and took part in their boys vs. girls netball match which was great fun! Boys won 4-3!!  After the match we had a brief talk to the children about the importance of water sanitation and hygiene and awareness of HIV/AIDS.  A few days later, when we were in the market, one of the pupils came to greet us and said “Hello Mr. Patel!” We were so surprised that he had remembered our names, and hope that it also meant that he remembered some of the issues that we had discussed.  

As well as researching our topics, we also found some time to hold an IT training workshop for RFDP staff in Excel and Word which seemed to go really well; we have yet to hold the PowerPoint and Internet training.

The weekend began on Friday as it was Teachers Day.  It was great to see the local teachers here being celebrated for all the hard work that they do with very limited resources.  Heads of the community and local government were there, and teachers presented dances, songs and poems to the spectators about their needs. Teachers are well respected here in Zambia, and rightfully so, as the knowledge they pass on to the children would hopefully enable them to one day find a job, earn a living, and be able to provide for their families, thus breaking the poverty cycle.

As we had not really explored the area yet, we decided that the weekend should be dedicated to doing just that.  So we did a lot of walking, especially on Sunday, when we decided to walk around the lake by the Castle Hotel.  Our idea of walking around the lake went astray as our sense of direction is rubbish! We ended up going passed the lake and followed the River Msuzi for about an hour in the wrong direction without realising! We ended up in some villages surrounded by cows and people who spoke less English than our Tumbuka.  We found a man chopping reeds who understood our anguish and led us across the river, up a hill and to a road, which he assured us would lead back to Lundazi!  It turns out we had walked out of Lundazi and passed the next town towards the valley! Five and a half hours after leaving the house we arrived home!

October 3, 2007

Ketan and Ragini – Blog 3

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Education, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 2:10 pm

Hello again!! This is the blog for week 3! So as mentioned in week 2, week 3 had been plagued with at least four days without electricity and water. It has to be said that the lack of electricity didn’t really faze us as the only things we relied on were the lights, which could be replaced by candles (very romantic), the kettle and the fridge.  As we don’t have a cooker yet (there is one coming we are assured) we have been using a brazier (charcoal burner).  This has been quite fun, apart from on Sunday when it took us three hours to cook eggs on toast because we were trying to restrict the amount of coal we were using! We learnt from that mistake, but now go through a massive bag of coal every week!

The week at work was always going to be a busy one as we would be writing our report for the previous week’s trip and preparing for the workshop that was to be held in the valley at the end of week 3.  However, due to the aforementioned shortages, we were unable to research our subject matter until mid week, which included water and sanitation, environmental protection, HIV/AIDS and girls in education. Furthermore, due to a delay in receiving funding from the USA, we had to postpone our trip to the valley, which was tentatively rescheduled for the following week.

Despite the work week being rather slow, after-work socialising picked up slightly as we met a volunteer from the US working for VSO.  It was really good to hear about his experiences, as he had been in Lundazi for a year and had felt and experienced many of the same things that we had.

We went for dinner at his house as a couple of other volunteers from Peace Corps were coming into town. It turns out that they live with some of the communities in villages about 25-30km from Lundazi.  It was great hearing their experiences, which kind of put our four days without running water and electricity into perspective, as they have no electricity at all and draw water from a nearby borehole all the time.  

On the Friday, we took a trip to Chipata which is the nearest town (3 hours away) and the largest town in the Eastern Province. We caught the 4am bus which you would expect to be full of sleeping people, which it was.  The driver had other plans however, as he blasted out some Zambian tunes over the speakers throughout the bus, despite keeping the lights off… for our comfort I’m sure! 

It was strange arriving in Chipata as it seemed so large! There were traffic lights and more than five cars! Rush hour in Lundazi consists of bicycles and people walking, with the odd motorbike and car! The landscape was also completely different, as it is located in the hills compared to the plains of Lundazi. 

As Chipata is located near to South Luangwa National Park, it is a hub for tourists and we saw many other Mzungu’s on their way to safari, mostly at the local Shoprite! We decided that we would head back on the 11am bus, which invariably didn’t set off until 13hours!

Our Saturday afternoon was spent at the Saloauloa Market (second hand clothes market).  There were many people with stalls selling old clothes, which were evidently from the USA, UK and other parts of the world. There were equally as many people without stalls, selling clothes that were in a heap on a sheet on the ground.  People were very focussed on us as we were the only Mzungu’s around, so it was very difficult to disappear in the crowd and just be one of the locals. I am sure that many of the prices were hiked up just as we walked passed too!

But what can you do? This was all part of our Zambian experience, and we loved every minute of it.

October 1, 2007

Ketan and Ragini’s 2nd blog

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 2:54 pm

Hello again!  You may notice that our second blog is nearly 2 weeks late…well you could say that its the influence of the Zambian timing, but the reality is that its a result of not having any electricity or water for most of last week!  So we have quite a back-log of work to catch up on.

Kambwili Community SchoolIn our second week we had our first taste of working with our target groups and trying to raise awareness about water and sanitation and HIV/AIDS issues.  We began the week by going to a local school (Kanele Community School) for what was initially meant to be a meeting with the head mistress and staff to discuss the possibility of coming to run workshops with the school, but it very quickly turned into both of us standing in front of the whole school (7 to 13 year olds) to talk about hygeine and HIV/AIDS with literally a couple of minutes of preparation time! Some of the children sang a song and recited poems about HIV and AIDS to us before we started.

On Tuesday we were due to travel to the Lumimba in the Luangwa Valley.  We were told to wait at home until everything was ready and we could leave, so we spent most of the day relaxing and waiting!  Unfortunately, we found out at 17hrs  that we could not leave until Wednesday due to external factors. 

The 4WD came to pick us up on Wednesday morning, and the journey to Lumimba took about 3hrs, including picking up Cheif Chitungulu’s wife and her entourage!  We took them to their palace in Chitungulu and met the Cheif’s advisor, son and nephew.  We had read before travelling to Africa about the custom to meet the Cheif and ask permission to enter his Cheifdom, so it was a really nice experience to actually go to his home and speak with everyone there.  We then continued on to Lumimba.  Our first impressions of Lumimba were that it seemed far more developed than many of the villages that we had driven through, this was later confirmed on seeing that many homes there had electricity run on solar power!

Later that day, after finally having our first taste of Nsima (tradtional local food that everyone eats a lot of here!) with buffalo meat (nice – which we were ensured was not poached meat!), we spoke to the HIV/AIDS and Widlife Conservation clubs in Lumimba Community School.  We had an enjoyable discussion about these topics with the pupils who were very bright and well informed, as was evident in the poems and play performed for us on our arrival. 

The next couple of days consisted of travelling to all of the catchment areas that RFDP work in (Ntumbe, Katawa, Kazembe) and holding discussions with the communities and schools.  Ketan focused on talking about the importance of hygeine, water and sanitation as well as assessing all of the water points and hearing the water needs of the community.  I focused on raising the awareness about issues relating to HIV and AIDS, including transmission and prevention of HIV, stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and how this could be detrimental to the community.  I also spoke about the importance of girl-child education.  Girls leaving school early due to having to work or going into early marriages is a huge problem in the rural areas of Zambia.  It was a difficult topic to discuss with the community as it is such a culturally sensitive issue, but one which was very well recieved. 

Throughout our “familiarisation tour,” we were very suprised at the positive response we had everywhere we spoke.  It seems that even though we are “Mzungu’s” and do not know all of the local customs and traditions, people were very keen to hear what we had to say and seemed to appreciate it and take away a lot of the information; we left with good feelings! 

The highlights would definately include having children running after our car; the huge smiles seen everywhere, despite having so little; people’s reactions when we spoke Tumbukah; being completly mobbed by kids wanting to shake hands; arriving in Ntumbe to the sounds of the some of the women performing traditional songs and dances to welcome us, and running the meetings under mango trees! Pretty amazing stuff!

The thing that probably stood out the most for us was visiting one of the schools in Kazambe (Kambwili Community School).  Immediately as we drove into the school grounds we were struck by the poverty and illness that was so apparent here.  The children had no shoes, and only a few had books and pencils – all through donations only.  Their nearest source of water was a river 2km away, inlvolving a walk through a game management reserve area, making it too difficult and dangerous to travel to.  One of their main sources of education is a 30 minute local radio programme that the teachers try to make the most of due to the lack of resources to buy teaching aids.  Coming here made our hearts sink.  What was overwhelming though was seeing the smiles and happiness on the children’s faces having recieved some visitors.  Definately an experiene to take away and remember to appreciate all that we have.

Our journey back to Lundazi was an eventful one, as most of our journeys have been here in Zambia! We left the valley at 18.00, and only reached home at 5am the next day!  The journey included running out of petrol at 20.00 in the middle of a game management area (i.e. we were probably only yards away from animals like elephants, hyenas and lions!) and waiting for Mr Zimba to travel back to Lundazi to get fuel and come back (130km round-trip which took 4 hours), and then having to stop again only 10km away from Lundazi due to a tyre puncture!  On the plus side though, the stars looked amazing as there was hardly any light, and Ketan and I saw our first shooting star together!! 

All in all, a fairly exhausting week, but one that has given us a lot to take away and think about for the coming weeks.

Photos:
Abandoned shallow wellThis first photo is of an abandoned shallow well in Lumimba filled with branches and other debris. It used to be used to water the crops, but has been replaced by a borehole.

Shallow wellThe second shows a shallow well dug in a river bed. People have to walk about 500m to the river and down a steep embankment, then dig down about a metre into the sand before collecting water, which they use to drink, bathe in and wash clothes and containers. This was in Ntumbe Catchment Area, but the situation is the same in many villages in the valley.

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